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Bartending 101: Customer service basics according to BarSmarts Wired


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The most important aspect of any job when working in the food and beverage service industry, whether you’re a bartender, server, host, food runner, manager or owner, should always be providing a high level of customer service to guests. Providing a consistent level of good customer service makes guests happy and in return increase the chance of guests leaving healthier tips. Good customer service will also help to ensure that the guests will come back in the future and tell their friends about their positive experience. Even “Cocktail Greats” such as Dale DeGroff and William T. “Cocktail” Boothby recognize the importance of always providing good customer service to guests and have created their own commandments for bartenders.

BarSmarts Wired is a virtual training and certification program whose purpose is to improve spirit knowledge, mixology technique and service skills of the students that take the course. Customer service basics are one of the many areas covered in the BarSmarts Wired course and are presented in the program through these five steps:

1. Greet guests as they arrive to the bar. If busy, make eye contact.

One of the biggest pet peeves guests have with their bartenders is being ignored. Sometimes, it’s impossible for a bartender to take a guest’s drink order as soon as they approach the bar because the bartender is busy helping other guests or servers who placed their orders first. In situations like these, all a bartender needs to do is make eye contact with the guest, smile as they greet them and let the guest know when they will be able to take their order. When I find myself in this situation, I will greet the guest with a smile and a menu and let them know that I will be with them in a few minutes. Most of the time guests aren’t ready to order as soon as they approach the bar anyway. Giving them a menu buys the bartender extra time to finish up what they were doing and in most cases, prevents the bartender from having to wait for the guest to decide what they want to order.

2. Make drinks in front of the guests.

It’s not a requirement that all guests must watch their drinks being built, but it’s a nice touch. When a guest has the opportunity to watch their drink being made, they can see exactly what is going into their drink and how much of the specific ingredients are being used. If the bar is slow, this process helps open up dialogue between the bartender and guest. It’s always nice to have a discussion with guests at the bar. The easiest thing to talk about will always be the cocktail being made or alcohol in general.

3. Check in immediately after serving a round of drinks.

It’s always a good idea to check in with guests after they’ve had a chance to try their drink and see how they like the drink. If a guest is unhappy with their drink, it’s better that the bartender know early on so that they have an opportunity to fix the drink to the guest’s likening or make them a whole new drink all together.

4. Always be watching the bar.

Situations at the bar can change in the blink of an eye. It seems like as soon as the bartender’s back is turned, new guests arrive, another round of drinks are needed, tabs need to be closed out or existing guests leave the bar for their table. Bartenders need to always have one eye on the bar, scanning for situations where they might be needed.

5. Keep the bar top neat and clean.

Bartenders only have one chance to make a first impression. Why not make that first impression a good one? When new guests arrive at the bar, the last thing they want to see is empty, dirty glassware or to stick their arms, elbows or purses in a puddle of mystery liquid. It’s a good habit for bartenders to clean up immediately after a guest leaves so that the area is welcoming and ready for new guests. A quick once over with the bar rag will prevent guests from wasting expensive cocktail napkins on wiping the bar down for the bartender.

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Be sure to check out the BarSmarts website for more information on the BarSmarts Wired and Live courses.

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